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West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio Not Ruling Out Legal Action Over Trash Importation

On Wednesday, Palm Beach County Commissioners approved an $18 million agreement to have trash imported into the county from Broward. This was done to help raise revenue for the county's new incinerator, and has been a sore subject among residents since last April.

But West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, who has opposed the idea from the beginning, says she has not ruled out taking legal action to reverse the decision.

According to the Solid Waste Authority agenda package introduced last year, welcoming trash from outside the county can make Palm Beach about $45 million in the first eight years the incinerator is operational. Extra income from importing trash could lower trash fees on local homes by $5 to $10 a year, according to the Solid Waste Authority.

But Muio says importing trash will only be a burden for county tax payers, not to mention the environmental impact and stress on traffic in the county.

The garbage-for-cash idea stemmed from helping to make money off the county's brand-spanking-new trash incinerator, which is expected to start working later this year. The $600 million incinerator is billed as a waste-to-energy trash burner that could help save the people money.

For the most part, residents have agreed with the mayor. When the idea was floated about in 2014, citizens picketed and protested the possibility of having garbage hauled in from outside counties.

Despite this, in April, commissioners voted 4-3 to start taking bids from outside companies to start sending their garbage into Palm Beach County.

On Wednesday, they made it official. The county will begin taking trash from Broward County, though the commissioners did turn down a proposal to burn pharmaceutical waste from the state of Georgia.

Mayor Muoio expressed her disappointment with the decision following the vote, saying she didn't want Palm Beach to become known as as the garbage capital of Florida.

"She thinks it's a horrible idea, naturally," Muoio spokesman Elliot Cohen tells New Times. "The last thing the county needs garbage trucks hauling waste around, clogging the roads and making things a burden for everyone."

"It's also a quality of life issue for her," Cohen added.

Cohen says that tax payers are already paying crews to pick up trash left behind from garbage trucks traveling down North Lake Blvd. on the way to be dumped.

"The trash flies off these trucks, and we have to send out crews to clean that up," Cohen says. "That's an expense on the tax payers that will only increase once trucks from outside the county start rolling in."

Cohen says the mayor has sought legal opinions, and claims that some are saying that importing trash from outside the county might be against state law. Taking legal action to halt the importation of trash is something the mayor has said she won't rule out.

"Our legal department is looking into it," Cohen says.

Local environmental group Keep Palm Beach Beautiful, who are partners with the Solid Waste Authority, tells New Times they have no comment on the commissioners' decision or on Mayor Muoio's stance.

For now, a Fort Lauderdale-based waste company will be delivering trash from Broward into Palm Beach County starting in April.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph

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